By Eric Uhlfelder
Local residents probably don’t know too much about Cooper Union. Established in 1859, it’s one of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher education, specializing in architecture and engineering, located on the corner of Third Avenue and St. Mark’s Place.
Founded by innovator, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper, the school is also home to a remarkable space that for a century-and-a half has hosted critical public discourse. Several years after it opened, President Lincoln denounced slavery for the first time in Cooper Union’s Great Hall.
Cooper Union (Foundation Building and home to the Great Hall) shortly after it was built in 1859.
Source: Cooper Union Library
I’ve written previously in these pages about other noted speakers who graced this historic space, including progressive Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and House Impeachment leader California representative Adam Schiff. And earlier this year, the founder of the modern animal rights movement Peter Singer moved the audience in describing the plight of factory-farmed animals.
On October 11th, The New Republic magazine sponsored an all-day seminar in the Great Hall on the risks of a second Trump presidency.
Known as “The Stop Trump Summit,” I feared it would be an over-the-top version of MSNBC. While no one took Trump’s side in any of the 16 short Q&A sessions, it was an informative rapid-fire review of the various issues — including, health care and reproductive rights, law, history, politics, and the arts — would be affected if Donald Trump returned to the White House.
The event included discussions with A-list speakers, including Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, the insightful legal scholar Dahlia Lithwick, Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Cay Johnston, the former Minnesota Senator (and comedian) Al Frankin, the former chief of staff at the US Department of Homeland Security (and Anonymous author of the NY Times Op-Ed that broke the news about resistance inside the Trump White House) Miles Taylor, and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Robert De Niro was also slated to speak. But the actor was laid up with a bad case of Covid. Miles Taylor read a short speech De Niro wrote for the event. Through his decades of character study, De Niro said he has learned what bad men were all about. He puts Trump in a different camp, one lacking a moral compass and possessing contempt toward all who disagree with him. De Niro argued this, among other reasons, made him ill-suited to lead the country.
Several of the day’s highlights included warnings that the 2020 election’s voter suppression playbook is being replaced with a broader, subtler and more insidious democracy suppression strategy.
Red states are seeking to criminalize and disqualify voters who are registered in more than one state. On the surface, that doesn’t sound unreasonable, until one realizes it’s targeting young people, who tend to move far more frequently than older folks, and that it’s nearly impossible to deregister from a voting roll once you’re on one. Young voters blocked the anticipated Red Wave in the 2022 mid-term elections and are believed to be a key to a Biden victory in 2024.
The one speaker closest to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, shared intimate uncensored stories about his former boss and believes that Trump is petrified about the prospects of losing his company, wealth, and freedom as a potential result of pending prosecutions.
Further exponential rise in political violence and how the Federal Government might devolve under a second Trump Administration without any adults in the room worries Miles Taylor. He said Trump has already explicitly outlined a goal of his next term: a supreme imperial presidency that would seek to be beyond the reach of government oversight with revenge being a top priority.
Al Franken believes introduction of a third-party candidate could further split the vote in key battleground states, providing a way for Trump to regain the White House. He pointed to 2016 when Green Party candidate Jill Stein took away enough votes from Hillary Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to help tip the Electoral College toward Trump.
While Franken didn’t mention Cornell West, who is now running as an independent candidate for president, he did cite Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s recent decision to do the same.
Since Kennedy is a democrat with potential appeal to a large swath of independent voters, his candidacy might hurt Biden more than Trump. And an early sign that worries Franken: “Kennedy recently received an endorsement from Americans for the advancement of measles, mumps and rubella.”
You can watch pieces or all 7-½-hours of the event by clicking on the link below: